After a month of battling gates it was liberating to say the least to jump in the car on Saturday night after my session and drive west. I realised perhaps a little late that the drive that was gonna take me to the river called Ara might be a little long after two sessions on the water – four hours winding up and down over spectacular mountain passes and valleys. But one thing is for sure: This part of Spain is magic.
The Ara is a gem of a river that flows from the heart of the Pyrenees with 3000 mts peaks dominating the view. The river is born high up at the Ara glaciar and flows about 79 kilometers before it joins with the rio Cinca. The water of the Ara flows crystal clear through the small town of Bruto – and I found the boys at a campground called Oto – which also happened to be our take-out the next day. This is where Edu bases out of as a guide for a great rafting company called UR Nomade -make sure to check them out if you are ever interested in a an amazing river experience on the Ara: www.urnomade.com
Driving up the valley the next morning I could not keep my eyes from the surroundings – blue sky, towering walls, deep river canyons and soon – plenty of whitewater. The Bujaruelo is a tributary to the Ara, and is a well known run in the area. Starting at the refugio of Bujaruelo, we floated under an amazing roman bridge, and I knew that we were in for good times. More than 15 kms of whitewater ahead, blue bird, lush valley and good friends – what else can be asked for?
As we were getting into the goods I very quickly named this run the Hobbit run – because it was as taken straight out of Tolkien´s fantasy. Green, lush canyon walls, thousands of class four rapids, a couple of portages and endless boofs and smiles. Waterfalls were cascading in over the dark canyon walls, and more than once I felt extreme happiness of being able to be right then and there.
Spanish paddler Edu Sola was the token guide, and I followed his clean lines and spot-on boofs down the river. With only twenty years under his belt he has already knocked off plenty of first-descents and paddles lines that many paddlers walk away from – I am not sure what it is with the spaniards but they seem to breed a fine line of kayakistas in the Pirineos..
I paddled with Edu in Chile this year, and also with Flo (Duval) who had made the trip over the mountains from his home town in France. It was incredibly nice to spend some time with these guys, and to see their area. I am not gonna lie – I was quite surprised of the quality of the whitewater, the scenery, well.. everything. I was also excited to try the Tutea from Waka kayaks – it is perfect for this kind of river running. It boofs over anything and since it is a bit shorter than I am used to, I also found it extremely easy to turn. I do think that the Tuna is my choice of boat for Norway though – I like the extra volume and length to get me through the holes and stay on top of the water more. In addition to paddling the Waka Kayaks I am also gonna cruise around in a Lettman Granate L this summer – and rock my Jackson playboat…. I am keen on testing as many boats as possible to find my favorites. Ok, ok, back to the Pyrinees…
After watching Edu style the biggest slide on the river which was juicy with a high flow, we cruised down some Disneyland slides straight into the lunch eddy. After a little feast we paddled into the Ara, cruising down from Puente los Navarros to and through the rafting section. In the Navarros section there were some sweet rapids. I am not too used to the tight gorges with a lot of rocks/siphons/trees, so for me it was a real treat to get more water under my kayak in this section. One of the more fun rapids is called the Pasarela due to the remnants of an old bridge, and another one is called the Chicane, which fittingly enough, is a move in slalom! The Pasarela went smooth, but the Chicane was my favorite. It is an amazing s-bend consisting of two curlers, without gates, even if Flo spotted an upstream in a real odd eddy in the middle of the rapid. 😉
Upon reaching take-out I was so happy for my day off from the slalom gates. It was very tempting to just stay there and enjoy the river life – but in the end I was a good girl, packed the car and headed back to La Seu to do two more days of training. In fact, the next morning I had the best training session so far in one month – obviously mixing it up is a good thing!
Thank you, boys, it was a real pleasure!